Skip to Main Content
this is omar Handles leads in the office

Facing the Future

Article posted 5th Apr 2016Engagement News

How many times do Google or Facebook get mentioned when employee engagement specialists get together to talk about best practices? There is a cynical view that whilst these organisations are very successful, they are like Marmite (or Vegemite depending upon where you live), you either love them or hate them. I recently had a great opportunity whilst speaking at a HR conference in San Francisco, to go and meet both organisations, and see first-hand what they were like.

When I work with organisations to help them improve their employee engagement, I always share how Leadership is the most highly correlating factor to engagement, based on data of the Sunday Times Best Companies List. Whilst I know this and have seen this with organisations I have worked with, I saw something at Facebook that really brought this to life for me.

At Facebook, I found all of the things everyone talks about, such as hair-dressers, Doctors, Dentists, Banks, restaurants and sports facilities on site. It resembled a mix between a theme park and a university campus. It was the strangest workplace I have ever seen. Yet, whilst the employees I saw looked relaxed, they didn’t look like they were over-indulging in these benefits. People were making use of them, but not abusing them. There was a relaxed focus that intrigued me.

Walking around, I noticed logos of Sun Microsystems. This was a logo that I remember seeing as screensavers on PC terminals as a newly qualified Pharmacist many years ago. I asked about the logo, and the response I heard really brought the power of leadership home. Everyone spoke about Mark Zuckerberg as though he was just another employee on site. They referred to him by his first name and explained the reason for the Sun Microsystems logo. For those of you who don’t know, this organisation was a giant of the I.T. industry for a number of years, leading up to the dotcom bubble bursting. Whilst they gained some ground, they never made it back to their former glory and eventually a shadow of their former self was sold to Oracle in 2009. The significance of all of this is that Facebook HQ was now on the site where Sun Microsystems had once sat.  I was told how Mark wanted to ensure every Facebook employee understood that the fate of Sun Microsystems, could easily be the fate of Facebook, if focus was lost and they became irrelevant. This was really brought to life when I was shown the entrance to Facebook, with their huge logo facing the street, and then I was shown the back of the logo... I was told how Mark Zuckerberg had insisted on retaining the Sun Microsystems logo to be placed behind the Facebook logo, as a sobering reminder that this could be them if they lose focus.

Leadership is crucial to engaging employees. Rather than being something that is a passive activity, providing that focus of where the organisation needs to be requires active effort, whether this is through symbols such as logos of the past, or anything else. Leaders responsibility to drive strategic clarity where everyone knows where the organisation is heading, is their core function. Having a clear Purpose, clear Values and a clear Ambition (Vision) is not just an exercise for HR every 5 years, but a role that leaders need to embrace and become ambassadors for. Technology is causing more industries to be disrupted by new players, with easier offerings. Whether you love Facebook or loath it, I was truly impressed with the steps being taken by leaders to truly engage employees and to remain focused on staying relevant.

Posted by Amrit Sandhar

Amrit Sandhar is the founder of The Engagement Coach. He started a career in healthcare as a qualified Pharmacist, where he went on to oversee half of the UK’s Pharmacy and Optical units for Walmart’s UK operation, Asda. Having successfully worked in the healthcare sector, Amrit went on to head up Employee Engagement for Asda, before taking up a role with the prestigious Sunday Times Best Companies organisation, working at boardroom level, helping organisations improve their employee engagement. Amrit is a qualified executive coach with an Advanced Certificate in Leadership and Executive Coaching with the Bristol Business School (ILM level 7 qualified in Executive Coaching & Leadership Mentoring). He is also a Walmart accredited AIM change trainer, Strengthscope accredited consultant, NLP Master Practitioner and has a CIPD Advanced Diploma (Level 7) in HRM/HRD.